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Winners and Losers at the NBA Trade Deadline

The grades are in for trade deadline moves. See who fared well and who poorly.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Brooklyn Nets Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

With the sound and fury of the 2018 NBA Trade Deadline behind us, the reactions are in around the league for which teams made the best moves.

Basketball Insiders heaped praise on the Cleveland Cavaliers for their flurry of moves, especially the defensive upgrade of George Hill over Isaiah Thomas. The Cavaliers trade partners—Sacramento, Utah, Miami, and Los Angeles—all got stellar grades as well for their hand in the chaos.

The move they liked least was the New York Knicks sending Willy Hernangomez to the Charlotte Hornets for two second-round draft picks and Johnny O’Bryant, whom the Knicks waived.

With Kristaps Porzingis lost for the season to a torn ACL and Joakim Noah in exile, the Knicks suddenly had minutes available to placate Willy Hernangomez. Instead, the team traded him for a pair of second-round picks from the Hornets and Johnny O’Bryant, whom the Knicks immediately waived. They will say it was about the draft assets, but this was a typical Machiavellian move.

They rated the Portland Trail Blazers sole move of sending Noah Vonleh to Chicago for Milocan Rakovic as a positive for both sides.

Kevin Pelton of ESPN was more down on the Cavaliers moves, rating the big winner of the day the Golden State Warriors, who declined to participate in the deadline.

The consensus seems to be that the Cavaliers have dramatically improved their chances of winning a second championship before LeBron James can become a free agent this summer. I’m not so sure.

Pelton gave the Warriors the grade by virtue of the Cavaliers lowering their ceiling with Hill, Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood over Jae Crowder, Thomas, and Dwyane Wade.

He also rated the Memphis Grizzlies as the biggest loser from the deadline, with their failure to move Tyreke Evans for the first-round pick they desired.

Kelly Scaletta of Bleacher Report gave the Chicago Bulls a winning grade, including their move to grab Vonleh.

They also added Noah Vonleh for the rights to Milovan Rakovic (who will probably never see an NBA court). Acquiring the extra salary helps them get to the salary floor and costs nothing. Vonleh is a low-risk acquisition who was a former lottery pick and might do better in a new situation.

He also rated the Cavaliers and Lakers as winners for the Clarkson/Thomas swap, while his biggest loser went to the Boston Celtics for their inability to get additional help to hold off Cleveland. Memphis and the Los Angeles Clippers lost out as well.

Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated did not so much give the Cavaliers a passing grade as he did their captain.

There’s a strong debate to be had over the merits of Cleveland’s trades from the organizational perspective. Taking Clarkson opened two max slots for the Lakers, who are now in better position to chase James in free agency. Trading a first-round pick in the Clarkson/Nance deal feels like an overpay. Taking on Hill, a solid but unspectacular point guard with injury issues, nearly $20 million in each of the next two seasons should cause serious heartburn. And acquiring Hood comes with the clear risk that he could prove to be a rental once he hits restricted free agency this summer. But those are concerns for the Cavaliers, not James—at least not at this moment. James’ biggest concern was being able to win the East again and reasonably compete with Golden State in a potential Finals matchup and these moves should help on both fronts.

Golliver sent some sympathy for Blazers fans as he rated Portland one of the biggest losers of the deadline.

The quiet deadline did little to solve Portland’s immediate concerns (improving its playoff positioning) or its long-term issues (a salary cap that’s jammed up through 2020). Instead, the Blazers remain lodged in a respectable but aimless state that gets more maddening the longer it drags.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer also rated the Cavaliers and Lakers as winners, while his scorn went to the Sacramento Kings and the Orlando Magic, who both parted ways with recent lottery selections (Georgios Papagiannis and Elfrid Payton).